Here's a great way to kick off Halloween...watch Ted Cassidy's 1965 appearance on Shindig in which he leads a groovy rendition of "The Lurch", the song he immortalized on The Addams Family. Cassidy even cut a hit 45 RPM of the song!
not a title that readily pops into one’s head when recalling the great horror
films throughout the decades. A British
production released when Universal Pictures’ line of horror franchises had
declined and Val Lewton’s minimalist RKO productions had reached their height, The Uninvited has remained fairly
obscure, in the U.S. anyway, but has also consistently maintained a solid
reputation as one of the great, classic haunted house pictures. In fact, The
Uninvited could be the first film to treat ghosts seriously rather than as
an instrument for humor.
by Lewis Allen and starring Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey and gorgeous Gail Russell
in her first film role, the motion picture was released by Paramount in early
1944. Milland was a minor star at the
time who would shoot to super-status the following year by winning a Best Actor
Oscar for The Lost Weekend. Russell, as described by filmmaker Michael
Almereyda in a visual essay extra, was a tragic case of Hollywood Chew-‘Em-Up
and Spit-‘Em-Out Syndrome. Remarkably
beautiful, Russell had nonetheless suffered from severe stage fright and yet Paramount kept
casting her in films over the next dozen years or so in an attempt to make her
a star—until alcoholism took over and she died young at the age of
thirty-six. However, Russell’s
performance in The Uninvited is an
impressive debut, and one can easily see why the studio had faith in the
actress. Her nervous, yet vulnerable
delivery—which apparently was her career downfall in later years—works well
with her character in the picture, i.e., a young woman tormented by the ghost
of her mother, who died violently by falling off a cliff to the sea—or was she
pushed? And is it really her
and Hussey play siblings who buy a creepy old abandoned mansion that sits on
the precipice of an English coastline. The previous owner, and Russell’s grandfather in the story, is the inimitable
Donald Crisp. Shortly after the couple moves
in, the ghost makes its presence known with spooky sobbing, moving things about,
and eventually materializing as surprisingly well-done animated ethereal
figures. But wait! There is evidence to suggest that there are rival ghosts haunting the couple and the
alleged daughter of one of the spirits. Who is the other ghost?
no doubt about it—this is great stuff. It’s English, it’s gothic, it’s romantic, and it handles the subject
matter with respect; Lewis really does want to creep out the audience, and he
succeeds. Beautifully shot by Charles
Lang (Oscar nominee for Black & White Cinematography), The Uninvited is old-fashioned intelligent movie making at its
best. Also of note is that the jazz
standard “Stella by Starlight” was written by Victor Young for the movie and
would be covered by a multitude of artists after lyrics were added to the tune
a couple of years after the picture’s release.
Criterion Collection’s new Blu-ray edition of The
Uninvited upholds the label’s long tradition of quality work and
presentation. The film looks gorgeous in
its new 2K digital restoration. Extras
include the aforementioned informative and interesting visual essay, two radio
adaptations from 1944 and 1949, both starring Ray Milland, a trailer, and the
substantial booklet with an essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme and a 1997
interview with director Allen.
Uninvited is a perfect Halloween
movie. Tell the trick-or-treaters to go
away for an hour-and-forty-minutes, get comfortable, turn out the lights, and
watch it. You will be spooked
The last known photograph of Doris Day, taken in 2008. The screen legend is now largely relegated to staying indoors.
In an interview with a former assistant to Doris Day, the Daily Mail reveals that there are concerns that the 91 year-old screen legend may be in a precarious state. Ms. Day has always been the most reluctant of superstars. Despite being a chart-topping singer and one of the most popular actresses of her era, Ms. Day has worn the mantle of fame and fortune very modestly. Her life has been beset by tumultuous marriages, deaths and estrangements. Like Cary Grant, she walked away from the motion picture business in the 1960s (her last film was released in 1968). She had a successful TV sitcom in the early 1970s and would periodically appear in the medium from time to time. She spent most of her life in a rather secluded manner, having sworn off relationships with men. Most of her efforts in her post-acting years were devoted to helping injured and stray animals. Rumors have abounded that Ms. Day was a total eccentric but friends and neighbors said that wasn't true. She would often be seen around her home town of Carmel, California, shopping or running errands. She also prided herself on answering fan mail personally. Now, however, it is feared that her health is deteriorating and that the quality of her life has been compromised by caregivers who are allegedly little more than adequate. For more click here
I will confess to being almost totally ignorant of the late, lamented Spanish director Jess Franco's work. Franco (also billed as Jesus Franco), who died in 2012, was known to be a prolific director of cult movies, many of which accentuated bizarre sexual practices. Franco was an enthusiast for the works of the Marquis de Sade and literature that was inspired by or devolved from his erotic stories. In addition to directing, Franco also wrote many films and provided the musical scores as well. If nothing else, you have to admire the sheer quantity of his work, if not the quality. During 1973 alone, he directed at least a dozen movies and perhaps a couple more that never saw completion (like most independent filmmakers, he was always scrambling to find funding from unreliable sources.) Franco would often complete production on one movie then immediately move the same cast and crew onto location for a completely different film. His "stock company" alternated between leading roles and supporting performances but for the most part they remained loyal to him and many worked on his films for many years.
The Mondo Macabre label has released a special edition DVD of Franco's 1974 film Plaisir a trois under its rather absurd English title How to Seduce a Virgin, which makes the movie sound like its one of those low-rent British sex comedies of the era. It's anything but. The film is a disturbing but mesmerizing thriller that centers on an attractive young French married couple. Martine (Alice Arno) is a blonde bombshell who we first meet as she is about to be released from an extended stay in a mental asylum where she has been committed for unspecified reasons. Upon returning to her opulent country manor house in the South of France, she is greeted by her loving husband Charles (Robert Woods), a handsome man who immediately makes up for lost time by bedding his seemingly insatiable wife. (I believe most men do the same whenever their wives are released from extended stays in mental asylums.) He informs Marlene that she has avoided a jail sentence only because he paid off local officials. A hint of what crimes needed to be covered up comes when Marlene lures a local hooker to the mansion. She brings her to the basement where the hapless woman finds herself in a real life chamber of horrors. It seems Marlene and Charles "collect" beautiful men and women by subjecting them to extreme sexual torture then murdering them. Their bodies are preserved as they look at the precise moment of death. With another victim now added to their "collection", the murderous couple make plans for their most ambitious undertaking. Charles has befriended a local diplomat and his wife and convinced them to allow their 21 year old daughter Cecile (Tania Busselier) to stay with them while they are abroad. Upon seeing her for the first time, the bisexual Marlene is driven to virtual insanity by desire to seduce the young woman, who is a virgin. The couple secretly spy on Cecile, who conveniently has a knack for parading in front of her bedroom window scantily clad before she indulges in long sessions of masturbation. Upon arriving at the couple's house, Cecile is a willing student in Charles and Marlene's sexual capers and is soon participating in orgies with the couple's live-in mistress Adele (Lina Romay), a comely teenager who is inexplicably mute and is obviously mentally challenged but who is all too willing to please her hosts. Despite the fact that Charles and Marlene are equally smitten by Cecile, they nonetheless make plans for to add her as their ultimate trophy to their ghastly collection of former lovers.
How to Seduce a Virgin is one of Franco's most controversial films. It is richly photographed and well-acted and directed. The film is as mesmerizing as it is distasteful and features a sting-in-the-tail ending worthy of Agatha Christie. Franco's cast performs gamely, doffing their clothes and engaging in extended sex sequences that come as close as you can get to hardcore. Despite the emphasis on sexual violence, Franco is surprisingly restrained in the sex scenes, emphasizing an erotic mood over anything shocking. He is particularly sensitive in filming the numerous scenes of lesbian lovemaking. Nonetheless, a Franco film would apparently not be a Franco film without bizarre elements being stressed. There is no background information given on Charles and Marlene or any of the other characters. This intention to be opaque only makes them all the more interesting. It's as though they exist in their own world. There are few outsiders scene in the story: a psychiatrist, Cecile's parents and the ill-fated hooker are the only people not to live in the house of horrors. A crazy old gardener (Alfred Baillou) and a loyal chauffeur (Howard Vernon) serve the murderous couple without making any moral judgments against them...although the gardener does attempt to warn Cecile what is in store for her.
The DVD boasts a gorgeous transfer and features interesting and informative biographies of each cast member. (Lina Romney appeared in many of Franco's films and eventually became his wife.) There are also recent interviews with the film's screenwriter Alain Petit and Franco scholar Stephen Thrower. In all, a very impressive release of a bizarre film that will haunt you long after the first viewing.
Stuntman-turned-director Hal Needham has died from unspecified causes at age 82. Needham had a long history as one of the best stuntmen in feature films and television before he moved into directing movies. Needham's films were hardly the stuff of art house theaters. He specialized in testosterone-packed action sequences designed to appeal squarely at male audiences. Along the way, he was also credited with developing methods that reduced the risk for the many stuntmen who populated his films. Needham made his directorial debut in 1977 with Smokey and the Bandit starring his old friend Burt Reynolds. Critics scoffed at the cornball humor and endless car stunts and the film laid an egg in urban play dates. However, it resonated with its intended audiences in rural areas and eventually the grosses brought to blockbuster status. The movie not only cemented Reynolds as a genuine superstar but gave new life to the careers of his co-stars Sally Field and Jackie Gleason. Needham and Reynolds collaborated a few years later on another film, Hooper, that was accentuated by stunt work. He teamed with Reynolds again for the all-star comedy hit The Cannonball Run in 1981. The film spawned an ill-conceived sequel a few years later. He also directed Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his first starring roles in the Western comedy Villain. Needham had no reservations about alternating between directing films and serving as a stunt coordinator. However, his association with Reynolds seem to mirror his own fate in the film business. As audiences tired of Reynolds' stunt-packed action films, grosses fell and Needham found himself less in demand. However, in 2012, he did have the satisfaction of receiving an honorary Oscar for his contributions to stunt work in the film industry. The characteristically modest man was well-liked and greatly respected for the impressive number of major films on which he performed stunts. These include Little Big Man, French Connection II, The Longest Yard, Camelot and A Star is Born. He was also a favorite of John Wayne, who learned a thing or two from Needham about how to throw convincing punches. Wayne used him as a stunt man or stunt coordinator on his films Rio Lobo, Chisum, The Undefeated and McQ. For more click here
Despite its hokey title, the 1958 sci fi cult favorite I Married a Monster From Outer Space is a few notches up the totem pole in comparison to other "B" movies of the period. Produced and directed by Gene Fowler, Jr. and theatrically released by Paramount, the film has been out of print on DVD for a number of years. The Warner Archive has just released it as a burn-to- order title. The film stars Gloria Talbott as Marge Bradley, a small town girl who is engaged to local hunk Bill Farrell (Tom Tryon). However, just prior to their wedding day, Bill encounters an alien from outer space on a back country road and the being takes over his physical body. While the "new" Bill looks the same, his actions and mannerisms change radically. The once fun-loving young man becomes sullen and quiet, leading Marge to speculate what has caused these mood changes. Nevertheless, the couple gets married on the designated day, though Marge finds her wedding night to be anything but romantic, with Bill seemingly disinterested in his new bride. As the days go by, Marge becomes increasingly alarmed by Bill's behavior. Making matters more frustrating is her inability to conceive a child. (Maybe the fact that the dreaded production code at the time mandated that even husbands and wives sleep in separate beds might have had something to do with this particular problem.) Ultimately, Marge discovers a shocking secret: not only has Bill's body been taken over by an alien but the same dilemma has befallen many of the other men in town. In fact, Marge finds it impossible to escape or even to call outside the town for help. She finally manages to round up a posse of "real" men who set out to take on the invaders- only to find they are impervious to bullets. Seems the rather benign beings from another world have the same problem most cinematic space aliens have: their world has been threatened by a natural catastrophe. In this case, all of the women on their planet have died. Not only does this panic the male population, but it probably also caused sales to plummet in local nail and waxing salons. Realizing they must mate or face extinction of their race, the aliens sample numerous planets before deciding on taking over the male population of earth. Once achieved, they intend to figure out how human females will be able to produce their offspring...though their intent is to revert to their normal ghastly physical appearances. As space invaders go, these guys are fairly lame. They seem reluctant to utilize their abilities to use death rays to reduce their opponents into a pile of ashes. In fact, they seem to dig their faux human alter-egos especially since they discover that sex can actually be fun, especially with attractive earth girls. (On their home planet, sex was only for procreation purposes, an understandable policy especially if the women looked like the men.) It is revealed that the "real" men are being kept alive in a space ship while their dopplegangers have been wreaking havoc. Thus, it becomes a race against time to thwart the aliens before the few remaining human males fall victim to an identical fate.
The film is a blatant rip-off of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, although director Fowler doesn't show similar restraint in making the terrors largely unseen. Instead, the film makes liberal use of special effects and monster costumes, but they aren't half-bad when compared to most B sci-fi flicks of the era. The acting is also above par with Talbott achieving the rare distinction of being a '50s sci-fi heroine who doesn't turn in a laughable performance, though she does comply with the now mandatory act of tripping and falling in the woods while being pursued by the villains. Similarly, Tom Tryon plays it straight and emerges with dignity intact, thus not deterring him from becoming a successful leading man a few years later in major studio productions. (He would also become a bestselling author whose work includes the eerie classic "The Other"). In all, despite its hokey title, I Married a Monster From Outer Space remains one of the more enjoyable B movies of its era.
The Warner Archive DVD is identical to Paramount's out-of-print previous release. The transfer is crystal clear but, as with most Paramount titles of the period, there are no extras whatsoever.
Network Distributing is pleased to announce the next batch of titles within “The British Film” range which will be available in the UK later this year. Each feature once again benefits from a new transfer, an instant play facility and will be presented in special slim-line space-saving packaging. Some of the highlights from October are a documentary about the body narrated by Vanessa Redgrave with music from Roger Waters, more gems from the vaults from Ealing Studios, classic horror, British musicals and a courtroom drama starring Richard Attenborough.
THE BODY £9.99
Vanessa Redgrave and Frank Finlay narrate an intimate and innovative documentary from the seventies about the human body cut to music from Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. Commentary by poet and playwright Adrian Mitchell.
THE FINAL PROGRAMME £9.99
Cult director Robert Fuest’s dystopian sci-fi thriller. Robert Finch stars as Jerry Cornelius, a Nobel Prize winning physicist and playboy who must battle his drug-addicted brother for the code that will move humanity to a higher level of creation with an immortal being.
THE EALING STUDIOS RARITIES COLLECTION VOLUME 7 £9.99
Four more films from the vaults of Ealing Studios - mining drama Eureka Stockade (1949) directed by Harry Watt, musical extravaganza Take a Chance (1937); serial-killer drama The Gaunt Stranger (1938) and screwball comedy Play up the Band (1935).
EDGAR WALLACE PRESENTS THE GAUNT STRANGER £9.99
Sonnie Hale and Wilfrid Lawson star in a crime thriller adapted by Sidney Gilliat about a mysterious serial killer known as ‘The Ringer’ that Scotland Yard must bring to justice.
THE NIGHT WE GOT THE BIRD £9.99
A comic crime caper starring Sir Brian Rix and stand-up Ronald Shiner about forging antiques and then flogging them. What could go wrong?
THE HEADLESS GHOST £9.99
From the creator of I Was a Teenage Werewolf, this horror is about three thrill-seekers who visit a haunted castle. Clive Fevill stars in an early screen role alongside Josephine Blake.
THE 14 £9.99
Oliver! star Jack Wild leads a throught-provoking drama about 14 siblings who struggle to stay together following the death of their single mother.
THE EALING STUDIOS RARITIES COLLECTION VOLUME 8 £9.99
Films in this set are The Feminine Touch (1936) - about the challenges of being a nurse in the NHS starring George Baker and Diana Wynard. One of the last films to be made by Ealing Studios; Young Man’s Fancy (1939) a music hall drama starring Griffith Jones and Anna Lee Seymour; There Ain’t No Justice (1939) stars Jimmy Hanley as a young boxer whose family face financial difficulty and The Silent Passenger (1935) sees Lord Peter Wimsey, Dorothy L Sayer’s amateur sleuth in his first silver screen escapade. Stars John Loder.
THE BRAIN MACHINE £9.99
Patrick Barr and Russell Napier star in a fifties sci-fi thriller about a machine that can reveal abnormalities in the brain…
EIGHT O’CLOCK WALK £9.99
Richard Attenborough stars in a courtroom drama about a taxi-driver wrongly accused of murder. Co-stars Cathy O’Donnell and Maurice Denham.
EDGAR WALLACE PRESENTS: COASTS OF SKELETONS £9.99
Heading an international cast – including German ‘krimi’ veteran Heinz Drache – Dam Busters star Richard Todd reprises his role as insurance investigator Harry Sanders in this rare crime adventure based on Edgar Wallace’s 1911 novel Sanders of the River.
BRITISH MUSICALS OF THE 1930S VOLUME 1 £9.99
A new, multi-volume collection of musicals from the 1930s. Contains Harmony Heaven (1930) starring Polly Ward; The Song You Gave Me (1933) starring Bebe Daniels; Music Hath Charms (1935) starring Henry Hall and his Dance Band andOver She Goes (1937) starring Stanley Lupino.
THE GOOD COMPANIONS £9.99
A musical comedy based on a JB Priestley novel starring John Fraser, Rachel Roberts, Thora Hird and Hugh Griffiths.
LIFE IS A CIRCUS £9.99
The Crazy Gang star in a comedy about a struggling circus also starring Goldfinger icon Shirley Eaton.
The niche market DVD label Mondo Macabro has released a little-known 1976 film titled In Hell, known variously as La tortura and Gloria Mundi. The movie is the creation of the late Greek director Nikos Papatakis, who obviously felt he had a significant left-wing political statement to make in this bizarre and unpleasant blending of radicalism and sexual humiliation. The film's one saving grace is an astonishingly brave performance by lead actress Olga Karlatos, who we are introduced to in a provocative, if cringe-inducing sequence in which we observe her sitting in a bathtub and attaching electrical wires to her nipples and genitals then torturing herself by turning on the current. Why is she doing this? It seems that her character, Galai, is an attractive young Algerian immigrant living in Paris. She has fallen under the spell of a mysterious and unseen political anarchist named Hamdias, who wants to wreak havoc against French colonialism in Algeria. This is to be achieved through terrorist acts that he is grooming Galai to carry out via instructions on the phone and cassette tapes. He also fancies himself an important filmmaker and is trying to raise funds for a political thriller starring Galai in the leading role. The film runs into the usual dilemma that real life independent producers must endure: the funding keeps running out but Galai becomes obsessed with ensuring that the movie is completed. Hamidias envisions incorporating perverse sexual abuse into the story line and he finds a willing leading lady in Galai, who enthusiastically submits herself to self-imposed "training sessions" in which she performs torture on her own body, all the better to please her producer/director/lover by giving the most genuine performance possible. The graphic opening sequence of this abuse is difficult to watch but the film quickly delves into a virtually incomprehensible look at the psychological tortures Galai is facing. Seems that Hamdias enjoys playing head games with her psyche and issuing increasingly dangerous demands including carrying out dry runs for terrorist bombings. She constantly vents to herself about her disdain for him, but it becomes clear that not only is she completely submissive to his whims, he is also holding their child as a virtual hostage to ensure she carries out his demands. That's about all I could ascertain from the confusing story line which at times is completely incomprehensible. There are films within films, sarcastic scenes that denounce the French elite and occasional sequences in which Galai is subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of military captor. There is abundant full female nudity but none of it is presented in an erotic manner and in one particularly awful scene one of Galai's would-be lovers vomits on her bare chest.
Papatakis might have thought he was making a poignant political statement but he comes across as a bargain basement imitation of Costas-Gavras. In fact, one suspects that all he really wanted to do was make a dirty movie but provided himself with a pseudo intellectual cover. (In one prolonged film-within-a-film sequence, a despicable French military officer engages a prostitute to engage in bizarre practices that include using a rather difficult and innovative method of opening champagne bottles.)
The scene in which a prostitute finds an innovate method of opening champagne bottles. (Ladies, please do not try this at home.)
The DVD features one of the worst transfers I've seen in recent years. It is grimy, dirty and filled with splice marks and awkward jumps. It looks as though an old VHS transfer has been used. In any event, the print utilized is certainly not ready for prime time. Mondo Macabro is releasing some first rate editions of cult movies but this is not one of them. The DVD also boasts deceitful packaging, implying that it is a lesbian-themed S&M film when, in fact, there is no such sequence in the movie. The only extra is a short but interesting gallery of Italian posters relating to the film.
the 1980s and 1990s I became disillusioned with television shows in general. Most of the series airing at the time seemed
derivative and predictable with little regard for the audience and more for the
commercial breaks. All of that changed
in 2001 when I began watching HBO’s The
Sopranos on a free HBO weekend, the first show that I can confess to binge-viewing
(the act of watching numerous episodes back to back with no break) and easily
the best television series that I have seen thus far. What was remarkable about it was the ability
of the writers to take their time and develop not only characters but
significant plot points, all without the annoying constraints of network
television and the need to get to the next conflict. This is not to infer that network television
is completely without merit as that
would be a gross and unfair oversimplification. Fox Network's 24, a show that
I initially was at first reluctant to watch, sucked me in when its first season
debuted on DVD. I have never been so
addicted to a storyline before and could not wait for the next episode and then
the next season. I have watched all eight
seasons at least three times.
Fox network has a sister network, Fox Extended or FX for short, and like most
other cable networks it has its fair share of exclusive programming (and
commercials, sigh), a maneuver that
appears to be the norm for networks if they are to survive. Even Netflix has learned this with their highly
acclaimed series House of Cards. FX’s most successful show, Sons of Anarchy, is now airing its
penultimate and sixth season. The series
has been heavily criticized for its use of brutality and profane language, though
I’m not sure that a motorcycle gang would speak any other way (as of this
writing you cannot drop “F” bombs, at least not yet, on this network). Despite
these complaints, however, SOA, as it
is known to its most zealous adherents, remains a rich dissection of the human
condition and how people deal with problems and try to solve them. They aren’t necessarily people you would want
to live next door to, but nefarious characters are infinitely more interesting than
real life. For one thing, they make us
think about how we would act if we found ourselves in their circumstances. In Breaking
Bad, Vince Gilligan's brilliant AMC series about high school science
teacher Walter White (played stupendously by Bryan Cranston) who becomes a manufacturer
of methamphetamine after he is diagnosed with lung cancer, people who normally
otherwise would not resort to violence or murder end up making those choices
when pushed to the brink and see no other options. In SOA,
murder seems to be a way of life and there is the Shakespearean element at work,
though it is covert; critics have cited Hamlet
as an obvious influence. Each season of
the show consists of 13 episodes, and season five is now newly available on DVD
the fictional town of Charming, CA, the Teller-Morrow family heads up the
original and founding chapter of the Sons of Anarchy Motorycle Club, Redwood
Original (aka SAMCRO for short). At the
end of season four, Jackson Teller (Charlie Hunnam) has become the president of
the club, with his future wife Tara (Maggie Siff) at his side. Season five opens with the introduction of
the father of a young woman accidentally killed by the recklessness of Tig (Kim
Coates), one of the Sons’s members. Unfortunately for Tig, his victim’s father is a drug lord and the most
dangerous gangster in Oakland, CA, who catches up with Tig and enacts the old “an
eye for an eye” principle against one of Tig’s two daughters in one of the most
harrowing and upsetting sequences in the show’s history. This action propels forward a plotline that
ends up with Clay (former president of SAMCRO, played by Ron Perlman) in jail
for a murder he didn’t commit in the final episode. Along the way, a major character dies in a
brutal way, and the show follows the axiom that no one is safe when it comes to
violent storylines. Jackson constantly
has to make difficult choices for the sake of his family and the club he
presides over while trying to placate his vice president Bobby (Mark Boone
Junior). In some ways, he is like 24’s Jack Bauer as he is sucked into
danger and has to use his wits to extricate himself and his club members. More often than not he is trying to convince his
mother and Tara that things are going to be different and that everything will
be all right; though noble, it doesn’t appear to be realistic.
and executive producer Kurt Sutter, who pulls double duty playing “Big Otto”
Delaney, has amassed a phenomenal cast. The performances are universally
excellent. My personal favorite is Mr.
Sutter’s real-life wife, Katey Sagal, who won a well-deserved Golden Globe Award
in 2011 for her brilliant portrayal of Gemma, Jackson’s mom. I always liked Mrs. Sagal as Peg on Married…with Children, and her banter
with Ed O'Neill, her slovenly husband Al. I never would have thought of her as a choice to play a character like
Gemma, however she has blown me away with the depth of her characterization of
this woman who will stop at nothing to keep her family intact.
Blu-ray looks absolutely gorgeous in high definition and the sound is crystal
clear. If you pump it through a stereo,
be prepared to mistake some of the sound effects for real-life sounds: several
times I thought my phone was ringing–
and my phone vibrates, I don’t even use a ringtone!
are also some nice extras to go around. Some of the episodes have some extended
scenes. There are also deleted scenes
and a few commentaries on select episodes. The best feature, in my humble opinion, is the ability to run the
episodes continuously without having to go to the main menu and select the next
one if you decide to watch more than one in a row. It actually encourages binge viewing!
winning release for fans of this terrific show.
It was the last remaining Mecca for movie memorabilia collectors in New York City. Jerry Ohlinger's Movie Memorabilia Store at 253 W. 35th Street in Manhattan will close it's doors and sell goods only on line. There was a time when New York, like most major city, had numerous major outlets selling movie stills, photos, magazines and other goodies. Rising rents and lack of interest in collecting among the new generation combined to force these wonderful places to close. In New York, Mark Ricci's old Memory Shop contained the stuff dreams were made of. But with Ricci's death many years ago, there was no heir apparent to carry on and much of his stock was purchased by friendly rival Jerry Ohlinger. There was also the long-standing Movie Star News, which had morphed into a rather antiseptic place characterized by neatly arranged, bland filing cabinets that somehow violated the unwritten rule that memorabilia shops should be cluttered, friendly places. Movie Star News finally closed its doors last years. Back in the 1970s and 1980s the Cinemabilia book shop and collector's store was the place to keep up with movie books and collectibles prior to the advent of the internet. They were the first major New York venue to close. Along 8th Avenue, minor memorabilia stores would open and close throughout the years, but Jerry Ohlinger's persistently survived even in the face of a changing marketplace. Finally, rent of $9,000 a month put the kabosh on his ability to maintain a store five days a week. The good news is that Ohlinger will continue his mail order and eBay sales- and it will also be possible for customers to make appointments to review memorabilia in person, but this will have to be done by appointment, according to Dollie Banner, a long time employee of Ohllinger and a contributing writer to Cinema Retro.
On a personal level, this announcement really hurts. I've know Jerry Ohlinger since 1971 and have acquired countless items from his store. His inventory has always been helpful in the publishing of Cinema Retro. Whenever I walk through mid-town Manhattan, I inevitably stop by to pick up some hard-to-find stills and chat with Dollie. Jerry still holds court there, his trademark soggy, unlit cigar dangling from his mouth. He has had several different locations over the years in Manhattan. The one I have the fondest memories of was located in Greenwich Village way back when. Those were the days when the store acted as something like a neighborhood barber shop for local movie fans who would gravitate there to to discuss and debate cinema. I'm glad Jerry is still hanging in there, even on a virtual basis, but I'll sure miss the human element as New York's last great memorabilia shop closes its doors. Thanks for the memories, Jerry.
Julian Richards’s Shiver opens at a Cadillac Jack’s diner in Sunland, CA (in reality,
location is part
of a movie set that includes an adjacent Pink Motel situated at 9457
San Fernando Road in Sun Valley, CA) amid electrical towers and pylons. A nerdish middle-aged man named Franklin Rood,
played expertly by Aussie John Jarratt whom genre fans will remember from 2005’s
stomach-turning Wolf Creek and its
forthcoming sequel, stumbles nervously to the counter and cannot help but
notice the waitress, Kathy (Nikita Sesco), who is clearly half his age. He fantasizes about having his way with her
and shortly storms out after she quickly declines his offer to take her to a
movie. His adolescent-minded feelings
are shattered, and he doles out a head bashing in the parking lot after she
locks up the diner for the night, leaving her dead.
Twelve years later in Portland, Oregon,
the city is on edge due to a serial killer being on the loose. Wendy Alden (scream
queen Danielle Harris) is pestered by her mother (Valerie Harper) to ask her
boss for a raise since she can no longer help support her daughter. He friend Jeffrey (Shane Applegate) has more
than a platonic interest in her and she doesn’t exactly push him away, either. It would be foolish of her to, considering someone
is out there murdering young women. When
Jeffrey takes the initially reluctant Wendy out to dinner and offers that she
stay with him that night, she attempts to assure him that she will be fine. Any
seasoned horror film fan will know right away that she is about to receive a visit
from lunatic Franklin. When Franklin
arrives in her home and surprises her, he reconsiders killing Wendy as she
begins to behave in a way that he is not used to. She evinces a disposition
that is different from all of the young women he has killed up to this point.
Like most serial killers, Franklin suffered bullying and humiliation during his
childhood and blames others for his failures. But Wendy seems different to him, and through
his own delusional method of thinking, he believes that he can persuade her to
love him. The rest of the film consists
of the police and their failure to adequately protect Wendy (it features two of
the dumbest police officers in recent movie memory, who are both mercifully offed
by Franklin within a minute of each other; Casper Van Diem (from Starship Troopers) is the lead detective
and Rae Dawn Chong appears as his partner, though she is given very little to
do). In the midst of Wendy’s attempts to
escape Franklin’s clutches he hatches a hair-brained scheme to get her to play
house with him.
While I would not consider the film to
be anywhere near as suspenseful as the ads would lead you to believe, it is always
interesting, though were it not for the central performance by Mr. Jarratt as
Franklin, it would have been no different than the recent horror outings such
as Choose (2010) and ATM (2012). Shiver is a step above these films and keeps you focused until the
final frame. There are moments that make
you want to scream and reach through the screen to choke the characters in
frustration over their actions, but for the most part the film succeeds in its
quest to entertain. It does require a
suspension of disbelief to succeed. Mr.
Jarratt has a unique ability to play unrepentant psychopaths. His turn as Mick Taylor in Greg McClean’s
aforementioned Wolf Creek brought to
life one of the most frightening and vicious psychos that the cinema has seen
in quite some time. Here he is also
mean, but for different reasons. In Wolf Creek, he seemed bent on inflicting
pain on others for his own pleasure. Here, his Franklin is a rejected and unhappy soul trying to connect with
someone and goes about it in a terrible and bizarre fashion. Valerie Harper gives a feisty performance as Wendy’s
mother, although she only appears in two scenes. I almost see her as a divorced Karen Hollis
from Blame It on Rio (1984) some 30
years later, nagging her daughter. Danielle
Harris is also quite good and proves a great nemesis for Franklin. The score is by Richard Band, brother of
Charles Band and veteran of over 80 films. At times, the music is oddly reminiscent of Philip Glass’s score to Errol
Morris’s The Thin Blue Line (1989),
but it is effective for the most part. The
location filming in Portland, Oregon is a nice change of pace and showcases Southeast
Milwaukee Avenue, home to Franklin’s day job as a jeweler and the common denominator
between all of his victims that the detectives notice and set them on his trail. The Moreland Theatre several doors down reads
simply Harry Potter, as though they
didn’t receive permission from Warner Brothers to put a full title on it.
The DVD itself is bare-bones and
contains trailers for Aberration and The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh.
I would have liked some interviews and a commentary with Ms. Harris who
is always so fun and bubbly when talking about her career and the onscreen
action. All in all, definitely worth
seeing for Mr. Jarratt and Ms. Harris completists.
Gregory Peck in the screen version of To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee, the reclusive 87 year old author of the American literary classic To Kill a Mockingbird, is taking legal action against the Monroe Heritage Museum, located in Lee's hometown in Alabama. Lee acknowledges that her novel, which was adapted into the classic 1962 film starring Gregory Peck in an Oscar-winning performance, has had a significant cultural impact. However, she maintains that the Museum is crossing the line and profiting by using her work and image for purely commercial purposes including running a gift shop that capitalizes on her work. The Museum denies all allegations and attributes the suit to the greed of Lee's "handlers". Like Margaret Mitchell, author of another American classic, Gone With the Wind, Harper Lee never wrote another novel after her first great success, which directly addressed the shameful racial practices taking place in the segregated American South. For more click here
Noel Harrison as agent Mark Slate in The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.
Noel Harrison, who rode the wave of "British Invasion" music to U.S. shores in the 1960s, has died at age 79. The son of legendary actor Rex Harrison, Noel took a different path than his famed father. At the height of his career, he dropped out of show business to do construction work because he disdained living the life of a celebrity. He was also a championship skier at one time. At his peak, Harrison's well-received folk songs won him loyal followers and some of the songs charted as hits. His biggest splash came when he recorded "The Windmills of Your Mind", the classic title song for the 1968 film "The Thomas Crown Affair" starring Steve McQueen. The song won an Oscar and is still "covered" by artists today. In terms of acting, Harrison only dabbled in the field. He had minor roles in 1960s films like "Agent 8 3/4", "The Best of Enemies" and "Where the Spies Are". He became a heart throb for teenagers during his co-starring role opposite Stefanie Powers in "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E." He also guest starred on numerous prominent TV series. Harrison resumed his career as a folk singer and found his audience was still enthused about his work. He cut an acclaimed album in 2002. Upon hearing of his death, Stefanie Powers issued this statement:"My darling friend Noel Harrison passed last night. Let us all light a candle to speed him on his way - he deserves to fly with the angels." For more click hereClick here to visit the Noel Harrison web site.
Eastwood and Siegel on the set of Dirty Harry in 1971.
They made five films together and all of them have stood the test of time. Clint Eastwood and his mentor, Don Siegel, gave us Dirty Harry, Coogan's Bluff, Two Mules for Sister Sarah, The Beguiled and Escape From Alcatraz. Each of these movies were not only highly entertaining, some have become classics of their respective genres. It was Siegel who encouraged Eastwood to make his directorial debut in 1971 with Play Misty For Me, and Eastwood would follow Siegel's penchant for shooting fast, efficiently and under-budget.Eastwood was a bit nervous about the prospect and persuaded Siegel to play a supporting role in the film simply so he would be on hand in case any problems arose behind the camera. The rest, as they say, is history. Eastwood would go on to dedicate his Oscar winning 1992 film Unforgiven to both Siegel and his original mentor, Sergio Leone. Den of Geek web site writer Aliyea Whiteley takes a look back on the collaborative films made by Eastwood and Siegel. Click here to read.
(For Cinema Retro's tribute to the original Dirty Harry films, see issue #9) Limited copies left: $30 includes postage)
Writing on the Diabolique magazine web site, Cinema Retro contributor Harvey Chartrand takes a look at the UK Blu-ray release of the long-lost horror film and "social satire" Sleepwalker by British director Saxon Logan. Click here to read the fascinating story behind this film that has just been resurrected by the British Film Institute.
Click here for the fascinating story of how one determined man managed to restore the original Volvo P1800 driven by Roger Moore in The Saint TV series. The car had been abandoned and had been relegated to the status of a complete wreck. Kevin Price found the car neglected in a field in North Wales but it still took six years for him to persuade the owner to sell it to him. Price then spent a decade tracking down replacement parts and six more years to restore the vehicle, which is the original one driven by Moore in the series. The car is now a star in its own right at UK auto shows.
Ed Lauter, the popular character actor who specialized in playing tough guys, has died at age 74. Lauter was one of those familiar faces who was recognized by audiences even though many viewers did not know his name. For movie buffs, however, Lauter was well known and highly respected. He had dabbled with being a standup comic in the 1960s before trying his hand at acting. Lauter quickly gained a reputation as a reliable character actor and he became in-demand during the 1970s. Among his most memorable roles were a ruthless prison guard in director Robert Aldrich's 1974 hit The Longest Yard and as Ann-Margret's ill-fated husband in Richard Attenborough's 1978 thriller Magic. Other prominent roles included Hitchcock's final film Family Plot, The Magnificent Seven Ride!, Breakheart Pass, French Connection II, Hickey& Boggs, Death Wish 3 and, most recently Trouble With the Curve and the 2011 Best Picture Oscar winner The Artist.He also appeared extensively on television and co-starred in the acclaimed TV movie The Jericho Mile. For more click here
It's one of our favorite comedies of all time. We were delighted to find this Youtube footage from Hollywoodbackstage.com showing the star-studded 1963 premiere of Stanley Kramer's epic comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World at the Cinerama Dome Theatre in L.A. The guest list included stars of the film such as Milton Berle, Edie Adams and Terry-Thomas along with George Burns, Barbara Rush, Maureen O'Hara, James Garner and Rhonda Fleming.
Writer Kara Kovalchick takes a look at those vanishing elements that used to make movie-going so enjoyable but which now seem relegated to the distant past. From red velvet curtains to free dishes to uniformed ushers, these are reminders of how an evening at the movies used to be a special night out. It recalls an era when people didn't have the ability to disrupt their fellow viewers by texting and chatting on mobile phones! Click here to read
Director King Vidor's follow-up film to his massive success The Big Parade, was a relentlessly downbeat silent film titled The Crowd. The film was extremely ambitious and boasted superb production design in its cynical depiction of how big city life seems to work relentlessly against an ambitious young man and his new bride. The film's downbeat story line alienated many viewers during its initial release in 1928, but the movie foreshadowed the onslaught of unexpected misery that would envelop America the very next year with the onset of the Great Depression. In a column on TCM's Move Morlocks blog, writer R. Emmet Sweeney looks at the background of this fascinating film and reveals that it's eventual release on home video is dependent upon sales of Warner's forthcoming The Big Parade DVD. (TCM recently ran a rare broadcast of the film.) He also discusses the tragic fate of the movie's star, James Murray. Click here to read
For a brief shining moment she was the "it" girl. In the 1940s, gorgeous Veronica Lake took Hollywood by storm. With her blonde mane done up in a distinctive style that is still very much in-vogue, Lake had the makings of an enduring sex siren. However, poor career choices coupled with a troubled personal life led to an equally rapid decline and an early death in relative obscurity. Writer Shawn Dwyer looks at the rise and fall of this Hollywood legend. Click here to read
We admit to not being among those who think Caddyshack is up there with the great Charlie Chaplin comedy classics. We might agree that it merits inclusion with the greatest work of nightclub comic/actor Charlie Callas, but there is no denying we're in the minority on this one. We actually prefer the comparative sophistication of Rodney Dangerfield's other starrers, Easy Money and Back to School. Yet, Caddyshack has spawned a fanatical following since its release in 1980 and the fan movement seems to only increase with every year. Count Tiger Woods among those who consider it their favorite comedy. Bill Murray's role as goofy groundskeeper Carl Spackler is probably his most popular screen character -though he is continuously upstaged by Mr. Gopher. The gopher scenes were ironically shot after most of the main photography had been completed. Director Harold Ramis experimented with using a live animal as Murray's on-screen nemesis but opted for a modular critter when the real gopher proved to be too unreliable (you know how actors are!) Special effects wizard John Dykstra built the immortal rodent who has earned his own place in the movie comedy hall of fame.
The story of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet had been filmed many times
prior to director Franco Zeffirelli's acclaimed 1968 version. Earlier
versions were hampered by the casting of actors in the title roles who were old enough to be in nursing homes. However, Zeffirelli cast
actual teenagers in the parts: 17 year old Leonard Whiting and 16 year
old Olivia Hussey. Zeffirelli also took advantage of the artistic
freedoms afforded filmmakers in the 1960s and depicted for the first
time the sexual desires of the two lovers.The result was a box-office
hit that appealed not only to critics but also to a younger generation
that could finally identify with the actors cast in the key roles. (For actor Michael York's exclusive interview about co-starring in Romeo and Juliet, see Cinema Retro issue #6)
"A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT: A LOST CASSAVETES CLASSIC"
Cinema Retro columnist Dean Brierly examines a buried treasure from the early career of John Cassavetes
Too Late Blues (1962) Directed by: John Cassavetes Written by: Richard Carr, John Cassavetes Starring: Bobby Darin, Stella Stevens, Everett Chambers
Fade In There are lost films and then there are films so far gone it’s as if they never existed. At best, they make stealth appearances on late-night TV about as often as sightings of Halley’s Comet. Too Late Blues is such a film. This celluloid bastard child was born from the unlikely coupling of Paramount Pictures (i.e., the Hollywood establishment) and the anti-Hollywood actor/writer/director John Cassavetes. Yet while both parents swiftly disowned their jointly produced offspring, the film has tenaciously clung to a marginal life in the shadows of film history.
Nearly without exception, critics savaged Too Late Blues upon its release, labeling it mawkish, overwrought and ridiculous. At times, it is all of these things, yet its stylistic daring and the emotional depth charges set off by its lead actors transcend the film’s limitations. Indeed, its very awkwardness serves to underscore the instability of its ambitious yet emotionally stunted characters. The few souls lucky enough to have witnessed the minor miracle that is Too Late Blues find that it lodges in the memory with the persistence of a jilted lover.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM CINEMA RETRO'S ARCHIVES
(This article originally ran in June 2007)
The latest sci-fi special edition release from Fox is the eagerly-awaited Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The TV spin-off series from the mid 1960s has built such a devoted cult following that many people forget it was based on a major big screen feature film produced by Irwin Allen. The eccentric producer has always been marginalized by the lifted pinky crowd for being the schlockmaster supreme, but Allen was a dedicated craftsman who cared not a whit about the critical establishment. He had an uncanny sense for reading the mood of moviegoers and providing the precise type of entertainment they craved at any particular time. By the time his instincts began to fail him in the late 1970s, he had already produced some of the most popular and highest-grossing motion pictures of all time, to say nothing of cult TV classics like Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants and of course, the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea spin-off.
Remember when glamour and style were commonplace in Hollywood? If not, then revel in this rare photo from the Cinema Retro archives of Audrey Hepburn attending the premiere of My Fair Lady in 1964. America is not supposed to have royalty, but Miss Hepburn never got the memo.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES
I've got to admit that when I received this screener from Fox I forestalled watching it. The 1973 film was only vaguely familiar to me and I kept putting off viewing it in order to handle more important priorities: like working on my 6-foot decoupage tribute to Lorne Greene. When I finally did watch The Neptune Factor I was pleasantly surprised at how competently it was made and how engrossing the story is. Fox has given this little-seen adventure film a quasi-deluxe release to tie it in with similarly-themed titles like Fantastic Voyage and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The film is inferior to Fantastic Voyage but I enjoyed it far more than the latter film, which has dated noticeably.
The next time you think you've got too much time on your hands, consider Canadian artist Kristan Horton,who professes not to own a TV, but somehow became so obsessed with Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove that he's recreated some of the most iconic sequences from the film using everyday household objects. This is the kind of time-consuming diversion one would think was last practiced by inhabitants of the Bastille, yet we have to admit Horton has fashioned some remarkable images. We can't wait to see his tribute to General Jack D. Ripper's "precious bodily fluids"! The web site www.cinematical.com uncovered this bizarre tribute. To indulge yourself click here.
"MEIN FUHRER, THEY'VE MADE A TRIBUTE TO ME USING CLOTHESPINS AND DINNERWARE!"
Ever wonder why the plot lines and even trailers of today's action movies often seem indistinguishable? Well, the truth is that they are intentionally made to be indistinguishable.Slate writer Peter Suderman reveals that the late author Blake Snyder's book Save the Cat! was designed to give aspiring screenwriters some tips about producing scripts with commercial appeal. However, the self-help scenario worked too well. The book has been used as a formula by studio executives to commission big budget action movies that never stray far from some basic plot devices. It's as generic as you can get, with only the characters distinguishing one story from another. The article explains why Hollywood is so devoid of creativity: if one Iron Man movie makes a ton of money, just make ten more movies just like it. The strategy works theoretically, but not always financially. Audiences often know they are being served warmed over, recycled fare and this often results in such "sure-fire" hits bombing at the box-office. Click here to read
The Total Film web site provides a useful guide to 50 cinematic gems that have not received the recognition they deserve. Although there is a heavy concentration on horror movies, the list does include other genres as well. Click here to view
(The following review pertains to the UK-Region 2 DVD release)
This film is a true oddity, and one
that will most likely escaped the attention of even the most avid Orson Welles
fans. Three Cases of Murder is an anthology film featuring three short
stories, each by a different director, linked by British television personality
Eamon Andrews, who appears to have just got home from a night at the theatre.
The only loose connection is that each is about, well, murder, and each segment
also features Alan Badel. a British character actor who was better known at the
time for his theatre work, but is superb here.
"The Picture" is set in an
art gallery, where the glass over a painting has been mysteriously smashed, and
several items have been stolen. Despite these nefarious goings on no culprit
has ever been caught. The museum tour guide meets an oddly dressed gentleman
(Badel) who engages him in conversation about this painting, a large portrait
of a gothic, fog-enshrouded manor house. Before he knows quite what has
happened to him, our tour guide finds himself actually inside the house itself.
This strange man reveals himself to have been the artist who painted the
picture. He had died before it was completed. It transpires that all the
pictures in the gallery act as a form of afterlife limbo, where the dead are
forced to live inside the paintings, stealing whatever they can from the
gallery. Also living in the house are a sinister, attractive young woman and a
truculent old taxidermist, obsessed with collecting butterflies.
This first story is by far the best of
the bunch, and plays out like a missing Twilight Zone episode, with its
stark lighting, fantastical story, weird camera angles and sickening twist
ending. Of particular interest is that
this segment was directed by Wendy Toye, who was that most rarest of people: a
female director in the 1950s British film industry. She had begun her career as
a dancer and actress, before moving into theatre and then film direction. At that
time there was only one other female director in the country, Muriel Box,
showing just what a difficult industry it was for women to rise beyond the
traditional production jobs on offer; script girl, wardrobe or makeup. The fact
that "The Picture" is the best, most inventive part of Three Cases
of Murder is testament to what a great talent she had, a talent that was
greatly underused in British cinema.
The second story, "You Killed
Elizabeth", is a mini-Hitchcock thriller regarding two best friends who
fall out over a girl. Murder and drink-fuelled amnesia lead to another surprise
twist where we learn the true cost of betrayal. Compared to the inventiveness
of the first segment, this story comes across a little flat. It was directed by
David Eady, his first contribution to a feature film. He went on to have a
minor directing career in British television and B pictures.
The final story is "Lord
Mountdrago", and casts Orson Welles as a pompous foreign secretary in the
old boys network of British politics. Although the story was directed by George
More O'Ferrall, who had a long career in television, it is claimed Welles
himself took over most of the directing. This is only a rumour, but it is not
hard to believe given his reputation.
Welles plays the titular Lord
Mountdrago, who after publicly humiliating a rival politician (Alan Badel
again) begins to suffer from nightmares, where he is himself repeatedly
humiliated by this same politician. After receiving psychiatric counselling he
refuses to acknowledge that a simple apology to the man he had wronged would
solve the problem. Instead he begins to believe that murder is the only way to
restore his sanity.
This story shares a similar Twilight
Zone feel to "The Picture", but is largely played for laughs. Welles,
who was appearing here whilst working in theatre, throws himself into the role
with gusto, unafraid of making Lord Mountdrago look increasingly ridiculous,
including an appearance at a party where he has forgotten to put on his
Three Cases of Murder is an odd little film, but is
certainly worth revisiting in this new release. It deserves to be given some
attention, and serves a reminder of just how creative even low budget B films
could be. This DVD from Odeon Entertainment includes a booklet which mostly
focuses on Orson Welles. The most significant extra is the inclusion of the
short film Return to Glennascaul, an Irish ghost story also featuring
Welles which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1953. It is a creepy warning
on the perils of picking up hitchhikers, and is worth the purchase of this DVD
You can order Three Cases of Muder from Odeon
Entertainment by clicking here